A2 Review article, Literature review, Systematic review
Captive breeding of European freshwater mussels as a conservation tool : A review (2023)

Geist, J., Thielen, F., Lavictoire, L., Hoess, R., Altmueller, R., Baudrimont, M., Blaize, C., Campos, M., Carroll, P., Daill, D., Degelmann, W., Dettmer, R., Denic, M., Dury, P., de Eyto, E., Grunicke, F., Gumpinger, C., Jakobsen, P. J., Kaldma, K., . . . Zając, T. (2023). Captive breeding of European freshwater mussels as a conservation tool : A review. Aquatic Conservation : Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 33(11), 1321-1359. https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.4018

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsGeist, Juergen; Thielen, Frankie; Lavictoire, Louise; Hoess, Rebecca; Altmueller, Reinhard; Baudrimont, Magalie; Blaize, Christine; Campos, Miquel; Carroll, Paul; Daill, Daniel; et al.

Journal or seriesAquatic Conservation : Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems



Publication year2023

Publication date21/09/2023


Issue number11

Pages range1321-1359

PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons

Publication countryUnited Kingdom

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessOpenly available

Publication channel open accessPartially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/89379


Freshwater mussels are declining throughout their range. Their important ecological functions along with insufficient levels of natural recruitment have prompted captive breeding for population augmentation and questions about the usefulness and applicability of such measures.
This article reviews the current state of captive breeding and rearing programmes for freshwater mussels in Europe. It considers the various species, strategies, and techniques of propagation, as well as the different levels of effort required according to rearing method, highlighting the key factors of success.
Within the last 30 years, 46 breeding activities in 16 European countries have been reported, mainly of Margaritifera margaritifera and Unio crassus. Some facilities propagate species that are in a very critical situation, such as Pseudunio auricularius, Unio mancus, and Unio ravoisieri, or multiple species concurrently. In some streams, the number of released captive-bred mussels already exceeds the size of the remaining natural population.
Rearing efforts range from highly intensive laboratory incubation to lower intensity methods using in-river mussel cages or silos. Most breeding efforts are funded by national and EU LIFE(+) grants, are well documented, and consider the genetic integrity of the propagated mussels. Limited long-term funding perspectives, the availability of experienced staff, water quality, and feeding/survival during early life stages are seen as the most important challenges.
Successful captive breeding programmes need to be combined with restoration of the habitats into which the mussels are released. This work will benefit from an evidence-based approach, knowledge exchange among facilities, and an overall breeding strategy comprising multiple countries and conservation units.

Keywordsaquaculturewildlife reintroductionbivalviaUnio crassusMargaritana margaritifera

Free keywordsaquaculture; captive breeding; conservation translocation; freshwater mussel culturing; Margaritifera margaritifera; propagation; reintroduction; Unio crassus

Contributing organizations

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2023

JUFO rating1

Last updated on 2024-15-06 at 01:26